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Some Neighbors Not Happy With Final Plan for Improving Concord Park

CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) – Ground was broken on Tuesday for $6 million worth of improvements to Dorton Park near Poplar Tent Road in Concord.

In November 2022, voters approved a $60 million Parks and Recreation General Obligation (GO) Bond, the first GO Bond for the city in nearly 40 years.

The bond includes funding for nine total park projects – four brand new parks and renovations to five existing parks, along with eight miles of new greenways within the park projects.

“The new parks will be the one out at Cox Mill, which is the new Jim Ramseur Park, and we’ll have a new one at David Phillips Activity Center, and we’ll have a new one at Wilson Street near the center of Concord, and then we’ll have a new one at Poplar Tent Trailhead off of Poplar Tent Road,” said Interim Parks and Recreation Director Sheila Lowery

The Dorton Park renovation was the first bond project to break ground.

“There are a lot of great amenities that are being added to the park,” Lowery said.

Those improvements include:

  • New restroom
  • New playground on the other side of the park
  • Parking expansion for total of 104 parking spaces, up from 68 currently
  • Two new pedestrian bridges
  • Field renovations
  • Disc golf expansion from nine holes to 18 holes. Dorton Park was the first to offer disc golf as an amenity
  • Renovations to existing tennis courts. It includes resurfacing and new fencing for all three courts. Additionally, one tennis court will have pickleball lines added, while the other two will have 10 and underlines added.
  • Stream restoration
  • Renovate existing buildings and shelters
  • New ADA accommodations. Renovations to the existing restroom will include an adult changing table, the first ever at a park within Cabarrus County, improving accessibility for residents.
  • Coddle Creek Greenway connection

Discussion for improving and adding parks began seven years ago, according to Lowery.

“In 2016 with the approval of the Comprehensive Park and Recreation Master Plan,” Lowery said. “That again had community input on what needs to happen in the parks, and in that adoptive plan it requested for us to take all of our parks and re-master plan them to find out if the amenities need to change and if the needs of the citizens due to our growth needs to be changes, so that’s what we did.”

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Concord Mayor Bill Dusch thanked the citizens for their approval of the bond package.

“This is the first of our parks and recreation project that voters approved by a 2-1 ratio last November,” Dusch said.

Some neighbors who live in the Afton Village community next to the park said they are not happy with the improvements that have been planned.

“The main concern is the lack of notice, the lack of following procedures in notifying the community and answering our specific questions with data,” Scott Manni said. “One of the major concerns of the residents of Afton Village is putting a bathroom from the front of houses, people’s residences, without notice and without need, and we’d like them to find another solution. We don’t want to hear that there are no options.”

“We just want to get it right. If you’re going to spend $6 million on a lovely park that we all love, please get it right, and putting bathrooms 20 feet across from the street from people’s houses is just not right,” neighbor Lauren Faust said. “Let’s just slow this thing down and get it right.”

One neighbor said that many felt like they were being “pushed out” of the park to make way for civic and recreational league team sports.

“The community that utilizes it feels that they are being forced out to make room for rec soccer teams or rec sports teams,” Anissa Manni said. “The community is very concerned that this family-friendly community park is being turned into a rec space.”

“The field is used five to seven days a week by two adult soccer groups, primarily Hispanic, and several youth groups conducting advanced soccer drills, also primarily Hispanic. Other groups include pee-wee football groups, primarily African-American, volleyball groups, cricket teams, disc golf practice, kids just playing, and picnickers,” Mike and Sheila Jones said. “All of these groups coexist and respect each other’s space. All are peaceful and neat. There should not be any consideration of recreation leagues playing here and excluding all of these people.”

Lowery said that the guidelines related to who can use the park have not changed.

“The same community members who enjoy the park and the open field can continue to enjoy it when it reopens, and likewise just as an organization can reserve the field or a shelter today, they will continue to be able to reserve those spaces in the future.,” Lowery added.

Lowery spoke to WBTV following the groundbreaking. She said she had heard the concerns of some of the residents of Afton Village, but said the city was limited in its options when it came to the placement of the bathroom.

“We have looked at all the options for a restroom to be located on that side,” Lowery said. “We have explored every option possible and there is one option that’s available that is within the current park boundary and that’s what the location is for the restroom.”

Lowery also said that the city did offer residents the chance to offer their input on the plans for the park.

“We value citizen input and the whole park is all based on citizen input and their concerns,” Lowery added. “The master plan was posted on the website. We communicate to the citizens, we provided update meetings and on the master plan it says all amenities will be in their current location, unless during design they have to be moved, and unfortunately for this park we had one item that we explored all the options possible and there was only one option for this restroom building to be located.”

Neighbors are also concerned about a line of trees being removed from beside a creek that flows through the park. They said the trees that are standing now “act as a natural barrier and erosion control.” As to the residents concern about the removal of trees, Lowery pointed that for every single tree removed, ten trees will be planted in its place.

The city’s website also addresses the issue, saying “The City of Concord is proud to be a Tree City USA. We recognize the value and importance of a healthy tree canopy and take care to appropriately balance our growth and development. The city actively looks for opportunities to replace lost canopy and add trees to city-owned parks, greenways, and facilities. The Parks and Recreation Department will work closely with the city’s arborist to identify these opportunities.”

Additionally, the city has a Memorial Tree Program. If you are interested in adding a tree to one of the city’s parks in memory of a loved one or to commemorate a special occasion, visit concordnc.gov/memorialtrees.

When asked if the current plan was set in stone or if neighbors’ concerns could still change the final look of the park, Lowery said that would be up to the Concord City Council. Several council members were in attendance on Tuesday, and residents spent time speaking with them.

“Right now we are moving forward with the plan as approved on the council,” Lowery said.

The neighbors said they will continue to explore every option.

“We’re contacting legal avenues to see what our options are,” Scott Manni said.

The Dorton Park is anticipated to reopen in the fall of 2024. For more information, please call 704-920-5600.

Source : WBTV